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Nahum: Week 3

From the time he became king, until his death, wars and revolts were commonplace throughout his empire. One could easily speculate that Ashurbanipal in fact died from pure exhaustion due to the series of wars he led. His army was stretched, exhausted, and depleted from conducting military operations.
- Hunting the Lions: A Dead King, and a Collapsing Assyrian Empire

The Fall of Nineveh

In 631 BC, Ashurbanipal died. His two sons and an influential eunuch battled for the throne. During the chaos, many vassal nations cease paying tribute, and Nabopolassar, the rebel ruler of Babylonia, revolted against the Assyrian empire. Previous attempts to control Babylon were punished in characteristic Assyrian style, but the time was right for Nabopolassar. In 626 BC, he became the ruler of Babylon by popular consent.

One of the sons, Sin-shar-ishkun, prepared an army and marched towards Babylon, hoping to regain control of the region. But another massive rebellion broke out in Assyria, and Sin-shar-ishkun was forced to return to defend his throne. This meant that Nabopolassar had time to gather his forces to take on the Assyrians. The Chaldeans entered into an alliance with the Medes (another former vassal of the Assyrians), the Scythians, and the Cimmerians.

In 616 BC, Nabopolassar and his allies went on the offensive, attacking the Assyrians. Assur was sacked in 614 BC, and two years later, the Assyrian capital of Nineveh fell as well. Although this was a huge blow to the Assyrians, their empire did not come to an end, as those who remained fled to Harran, where Ahsur-uballit was installed as the new Assyrian ruler. The Assyrians fled once more, this time to Carchemish, which was under the control of the Egyptians.

The remaining Assyrians made their last stand at Carchemish. The Egyptian pharaoh, Necho II, sent an army to aid the Assyrians. This episode is recorded in 2 Chronicles 35:20-24 where Josiah sided with the Babylonians and fought against the Egyptians as they were journeying northwards along the Mediterranean coast through Josiah’s territory. Josiah lost his life, but the Egyptian army was also disrupted by the battle.

Despite the aid of the Egyptians, the Assyrians were defeated by Nabopolassar’s son, Nebuchadnezzar, at the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC. Nabopolassar died in the same year, or in the following year, and was succeeded by Nebuchadnezzar.